A site-specific project for Prague’s public places
This year’s “places of act” are the Palác U Stýblů (Stýblo Palace), the former Institute of Folk Art Production (ÚLUV), and their immediate surroundings. Abandoned palaces awaiting a new role, functionalist gems with glass facades from which one can observe the hustle and bustle of the big city, objectively and from a distance. The city center – Wenceslas Square and Národní třída – has long been a stage for our turbulent history. But here you will also find abandoned hot dog stands, show windows for tourists, homeless people, and shopping-hungry visitors. For many Praguers, this is an ugly part of their hometown. If you stop for a moment and pretend to be a foreigner in this familiar environment – don’t hurry, watch and observe – you will see the theater that is going on all around you. Rewrite your mental map of intimately familiar places and recast them into completely new experiences. Fragments of words spoken into mobile phones suddenly become the life stories of those who pass you on the street. The surrounding buildings and streets are like a stage set, the people’s clothing their costumes, the public space the stage. The invisible urban theater can begin – you yourself decide to be a viewer. These are the principles applied by the theater groups we have invited to the Stýblo Palace. Extraordinary one-time-only projects have been prepared especially for you by Vosto5, VerTeDance, students from DAMU, the international Stage Code theater group, Belgium’s futuristic C.a.p.e., and famous Dutch director Lotte van den Berg. Let them show you the city and familiar public spaces in a new light. Another exceptional success for us this year is the opening of the former House of Artistic Industry on Národní třída – specifically its underground spaces which in the 1930s was home to a gallery and movie theater and, towards the end of the building’s era, housed the Institute of Folk Art Production. The space, which has been closed to the public for 24 years, will form the inspiration for a music-movement performance by rapper and visual artist Vladimír 518 and his artistic colleages. With this project, we are continuing in the tradition of the site-specific projects organized during past festivals at the former Federal Assembly and the former Casino on Pařížská street, to name just a few.
We have also invited several distinct individuals to guide use through the urban environment surrounding these empty buildings. Our tours will focus on a cultural reading of the city and how people live in it today – how the contemporary urban environment compares to nature or water, or what traces we leave in the public space. Our guides are a plant sociologist, a geologist, a theorist of architecture, a theater director, and an editor at a respected magazine. As in the past, the Stýblo Palace offers theater premieres, public debates, symposia, and concerts, and also an art bar.
For nine days, we will bring to life unused buildings that originally served the art industry. May they be a source of inspiration for Prague’s cultural community and those in charge of such buildings (town hall, the various municipal districts, property owners, cultural institutions), and may they show them the kind of functions these buildings may be given in the future.
Last but not least, there is the exhibition of contemporary art by forty Czech and Slovak artists at the former Alfa discotheque in the Stýblo Palace entitled “Who is the Director?” Through their works, these artists explore what may have an impact on our collective consciousness. We are convinced that you ask similar questions yourselves.